RNC Fundraising Plan Focuses On 'Fear' Of Obama

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A confidential Republican National Committee presentation reveals the party's strategy to raise money this election season. The RNC urges capitalizing on "fear" of President Obama and a promise to save the country from "socialism." Andy Barr, a reporter for Politico, says though the presentation came from the RNC, it's now trying to distance itself from it.

MICHELE NORRIS, host:

The Republican National Committee plans to fuel fundraising and fire up their base with a campaign that will aggressively play up fear of President Obama and concerns about socialism. That's according to a confidential PowerPoint slideshow first obtained by the news organization Politico.

The presentation includes a page called "The Evil Empire." It features several caricatures: Nancy Pelosi as Cruella De Vil, Harry Reid as Scooby Doo, and President Obama portrayed in white face paint like the joker from "Batman."

We're joined now by Politico reporter Andy Barr.

Andy, so glad you're with us.

Mr. ANDY BARR (Reporter, Politico): Thanks for having me.

NORRIS: The RNC rolled out this slideshow last month in Florida. Who was behind the slideshow and who was on hand for that presentation?

Mr. BARR: Well, the RNC finance director gave the presentation. The slideshow is an RNC document. It was produced from their shop. Now, they're trying to actually distance themselves from this, saying that Chairman Michael Steele didn't know. But it's their document. It's got their fingerprints all over it.

And the people they were presenting it to were RNC fundraisers. So this is actually, you know, their strategy to solicit donors, both big and small donors. For big donors, they suggest you appeal to their ego. For small donors, they suggest you appeal to their fears.

NORRIS: The campaign does have a bit of cynicism in it. The documents in this, or the slideshow presentation, asks in one slide, what can you sell when you do not have the White House, the House or the Senate? And the answer in that slideshow is save the country from socialism.

Is this a departure from the way the RNC normally appeals to donors?

Mr. BARR: It is and it isn't. I talked to a lot of, you know, like Republican strategists, guys who've worked at the RNC currently and have been before. You know, when you're out of power, this is kind of what you do. I think it's ugly, but it's a fact of politics, which is whichever party is in power is selling access.

The Democrats right now, to their top donors, can sell access to the White House, to administration officials, to members of Congress. Republicans can't do that. What they're selling, though, instead of ideas is this kind of fear. They think that that's really working out for them, and if you look at their fundraising, you know, it's kind of true.

I mean, the big donors have been scared off by Steele because they don't like the way he operated, but small donors have come in in droves. They got a donor base of 1.6 million. They, you know, had an average contribution of $40 last year. And so, you know, it's a little ugly, but to some extent, it's working.

NORRIS: With this campaign, is the RNC responding to fear or are they trying to arouse fear?

Mr. BARR: I think they're certainly trying to arouse fear. I mean, it's out there. There is this sentiment. It's kind of the grassroots energy that the Tea Party has tapped into and that the RNC has desperately tried to get a hold of. I mean, they've brought in Tea Party leaders. They want these people in.

But the truth is, you know, they are not attacking on anything specific. They're not going after health care or anything like that. They're using a very wide brush to paint this charge of socialism.

NORRIS: Speaking of paint, a black president in white face paint. Is that crossing a bit of a line there?

Mr. BARR: You know, I don't think it is, and you're not really hearing any Democrats cry foul over it, I think just because there's such a clear allusion to, you know, that widely popular Joker figure that Heath Ledger played in that Batman movie.

NORRIS: How did Politico obtain this document?

Mr. BARR: Believe it or not, the RNC left it there, and a Democratic operative who happened to be staying in the same place...

NORRIS: Left it at the hotel?

Mr. BARR: Left it at the hotel and just happened to find it at the hotel, and they provided it to us.

NORRIS: Are Democrats trying to use this in any way to their advantage, with outrage, umbrage, doing their own fundraising, perhaps?

Mr. BARR: Absolutely, the DCCC, which is in charge of raising money and creating strategy for House candidates already has a fundraiser out with this featuring it. You know, I mean, it's certainly to their advantage not only to leak it to us but to do everything they can with it. They've been very heavy in pushing and promoting this today.

NORRIS: One last very quick question: Any Republican elected officials respond to this?

Mr. BARR: There yeah, there have been quite a few. For the most part, they wanted to lay off. I personally have talked to over 30 of them today. You know, others up on Capitol Hill have tried to back off. The truth is they want to create as much distance from this as they can. Some of the guys who have worked in fundraising and stuff before say that this is really not anything new, that this is not out of the norm at all, but you know, it's ugly optics, and when you get caught doing it, it's just something you want as much distance between yourself and it as you can get.

NORRIS: Andy Barr, thanks so much.

Mr. BARR: Thanks for having me.

NORRIS: Andy Barr is a reporter for Politico.

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